This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.
In our latest installment of Best Bets, we mix in props with straight plays, taking a firm position on the interim title fight between Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis. We also take a look at a sizeable underdog against someone who appears to be an unjustified favorite. As always, I have limited my looks to lines below (-200), as I feel that anything more expensive is supposed to come in, and doesn't really require a write-up. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without any further ado, let's get to it.
Alonzo Menifield (10-2-0) vs Ed Herman (25-14-0) Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
In a division full of quick athletes, the glacially-slow Herman has done a respectable job of hanging tough in the later stages of his career, having picked up wins in each of his last three fights. None of those opponents possessed the explosive ability or power of Menifield, however, which leaves me wondering just how the veteran will be able to negotiate his way through this matchup.
One way might be to lean on his takedown game, though Herman has never had what we might call clean wrestling, and Menifield currently sports an 85 percent takedown defense rate. This being the case, Herman may simply have to rely on his power. The issue there is that "Short Fuse" has scored just one KO/TKO victory in his last six fights, which came against the slow-footed and grapple-heavy Patrick Cummins. Add in the fact that Herman is frequently there to be hit, and I don't see much room for error facing one of the young lions of light heavyweight.
Some may bristle at paying juice on a prop bet, and while I understand the hesitation, I just don't see too many other ways for this fight to end. Herman took an absolute thrashing against Mike Rodriguez before an *ahem* groin strike allowed him to rest and find his bearings, and Menifield is undoubtedly the most dangerous fighter he has faced since Derek Brunson in 2015. Unless he can find a big shot of his own, I don't think Herman will be able to stand up to the barrage that Menifield will throw at him.
The play: Alonzo Menifield wins by KO/TKO: -137
Miles Johns (11-1-0) vs. Anderson Dos Santos (21-8-0) Weight class: bantamweight
Records will never tell the entire story of a fight, but unless someone is on the last legs of their career, or facing a can't-miss prospect, it's always strange when the experience advantage is given such little consideration. That's the case here, despite the fact that Dos Santos is finding his form, and Johns hasn't looked all that impressive in the Octagon.
Dos Santos looked like a deer in headlights during his debut against Nad Narimani but really seemed to get comfortable in his last outing against Martin Day, which saw him throw big strikes as a lead-in to his wrestling game. Johns has been tough to take down in his UFC career but has a bad habit of letting opponents control the center of the cage, which should allow Dos Santos to outwork him over three rounds. It should also be noted that Johns will need to be cautious when working his own wrestling game due to the BJJ skills of "Berinja."
Johns performed well in his bout on the Contender Series but recent fights haven't earned him this wide of a line against an opponent that will stay in his face and throw heat. Particularly since I don't expect that he will be able to find the perfect KO punch here as he did against Natividad.
The play: Anderson dos Santos (+175)
Ciryl Gane (9-0-0) vs. Derrick Lewis (25-7-0) Weight class: heavyweight
By all metrics, Gane is the can't-miss prospect I referenced above. The French fighter is quick and agile like no one else in the division in addition to being a slick kickboxer with power. Derrick Lewis can put anyone to sleep with one shot, but I've always thought that the "puncher's chance" exists on a sliding scale, being more or less likely to come to fruition based on the matchup. In this case, that chance for Lewis seems as low as it's ever been.
Conventional wisdom (and Lewis, himself) tells us that while Gane is the superior technical fighter, Lewis has 25 minutes to land one shot. However, history has shown that's not exactly the case. Even if we discount the Mark Hunt fight (in which Lewis had a back injury), "The Black Beast" was badly hurt by Travis Browne in the first round of their bout and was lumped up and finished by Junior dos Santos in 2019. Gane has the technical prowess and firepower to do the same and can attempt to throw in a takedown or two for good measure.
Every windup from Lewis will be a potentially scary moment, but Curtis Blaydes was throwing the Houston native off balance and countering brilliantly before feeling the need to wrestle, which leads me to believe that Gane should be able to do that and more. I believe this will lead to an attritive finish.
The play: Gane via KO/TKO: +138
Karolina Kowalkowicz (12-6-0) vs. Jessica Penne (13-5-0) Weight class: strawweight
Both of these fighters are former title challengers who have fallen on hard times, but this one boils down to who I can trust to do more in the cage. Kowalkiewicz has continued to throw and pressure throughout her four-fight losing skid, while Penne has landed just 2.40 significant strikes per minute through nine UFC/Invicta FC fights.
Penne looked solid in her most recent win against Lupita Godinez, but even against an opponent who was always giving ground, Penne ate some hard shots, and was frequently out of range with her strikes. Kowalkiewicz pushing the pace should frustrate Penne, not allowing her the space she needs to land strikes.
It's likely that Kowalkiewicz will be cut if she is unable to find a victory here. While that could add some pressure, I think this will be the first matchup for her in some time that will allow her to dictate terms, which is when she has been at her best in the past.
The play: Karolina Kowalkiewicz: (-135)